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Review: “The Walking Dead” by Robert Kirkman

October 28th, 2010 Comments off

Books one through six have been released, with seven soon to come.

This Sunday, AMC will debut their brand new series The Walking Dead, based on the Robert Kirkman comic book series of the same name.  I don’t actually know if you’re supposed to call them graphic novels or comics.  It is more sophisticated that the cartoon books of my youth and it is easily closer to literature than one would associate with an Archie or X-Men book, so I’ll go with graphic novels.

I don’t quite recall what drove me to pick up TWD for the first time.  It may have been on a recommendation from G4TV’s Blair Butler or some interweb publicity, but I’m darn glad I did.  I’ve had a long-time fascination with the zombie genre of film-making that has extended beyond the George Romero staple to be highlighted by recent movies (be they comedies such as Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland, or action thrillers such as 28 Days Later) and even the under-exposed Max Brooks tome World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.

The Walking Dead is a tale that starts off a bit like your typical zombie fare, but it evolving rather quickly into something more akin to literature.  That is not a knock on any of the movies in the genre (particularly 28 Days Later, which film’s beginning is quite aped by Kirkman in Book 1), nor is it a hack at World War Z, which very much so is a piece of unique literature, trading the oral history motif from the documentary to the sci fi.  The key, distinguishing element of TWD is that it doesn’t focus on the zombies.  The story is, instead, about the humans in their endeavor to survive.

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Quick Hits: Rubicon E1.12 — “Wayward Sons”

October 17th, 2010 1 comment

This Sunday is the finale for Rubicon. Here's to hoping for a re-up for season 2.

So Rubicon has finally started to pick up, putting a little umph into the faith I’ve had that the show has what it takes to grow into a real winner and a hit. To read prior Quick Hits for the show, click here on my posts tagged #Rubicon.  Here are my Quick Hits for Episode 1.12, “Wayward Sons.”

This episode was a bit unique in how it was shot. Unlike the dark, stuffy character of most of the Rubicon episodes, we were treated to more wide shots showing off views or airy spaces. Even in Katherine’s safe house, it was a light atmosphere. And the shots from the Harbor High, New Jersey field command were sweeping in nature, both in the windowed cafeteria and looking over the gym headquarters. The technology, too, was eye popping, something that had been missing from the old-research library feel of API.

That style of cinema played through to the plot, as well. This was the most ambitious episode since the premiere, with legitimate action and endpoints reached in advance of the finale. True, much of the action remained off-screen, but it was a bit thrilling nonetheless. You had confrontation, an active chase of conspiracy on two fronts, and the great reveal of at least two key elements to the seasons plot arcs.

The scene with Kale and Katherine in the safe house (accompanied by a still useless Maggie) was well done and reflective of the grander vision of the episode. In the first interaction between Kale and Katherine, they played well off each other, particularly as Kale spoke of the show’s namesake. He told the story of Cato the Younger, an opponent of Julius Caesar who, upon Caesar’s legion crossing the Rubicon and with defeat inevitable, took his own life so as to permit his family’s reconcile with Caesar. The parallel, of course, is that Rhumor took his own life as a way out that permitted the escape of his wife Katherine from the consequences of his sins. That’s all well and nice, of course, but the historical accuracy is somewhat dubious. Cato killed himself while on the run in Africa after repeated stands and defeats at the Thirteenth Legion’s hands. The historical record hardly seems to look too kindly on his act, indicating that Cato chose to kill himself rather than to seek mercy and a pardon because of his pride. Historical accuracy aside, there’s a nice element of literary ties therein. And I’m not going to beg accuracy from a show that loves its Mercator Projection Maps.

The style of the episode wasn’t always more poetic, though. In many ways it was simply more cinematic. The way it was shot and the action therein reminded me immediately of two terror-related movies: The Siege, in which Islamic fundamentalists hold New York hostage in fear, and The Jackal, in which the criminal justice and intelligence communities track an assassin across the country. I liked both movies and I loved this episode.

Dang, Rubicon is finishing strong. Click on through for my quick hits. Read more…

Quick Hits: Rubicon E1.11 — “A Good Day’s Work”

October 16th, 2010 2 comments

Not much in the way for production stills from this episode. So back to the trusty credits logo.

So Rubicon has finally started to pick up, putting a little umph into the faith I’ve had that the show has what it takes to grow into a real winner and a hit. To read prior Quick Hits for the show, click here on my posts tagged #Rubicon.  Here are my Quick Hits for Episode 1.11, “A Good Day’s Work.”

Alas, twelve episodes in, Rubicon realizes its potential. Good grief, that was good television. In a season dominated by the best episodes Mad Men has to deliver, finally Rubicon held it’s own on a Sunday night. You had outstanding acting, particularly from Miranda Richardson. You had legitimate action, even if not always of the traditional sort, until the episode’s end. You had the piecing together of the conspiracy, deftly done so that the audience is permitted to follow along, neither ahead nor behind the API team. Heck, you even had a near “Sheeeeeeeet” moment from Clay Davis, himself, Isiah Whitlock, Jr.

In sum, this was the first real time where so many of the pieces with potential in the show all came together and made the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

I’m a couple weeks late in getting this review up, so I’m going to keep it concise and shoot it right through with the Quick Hits.  Click through to read. Read more…

Quick Hits: Rubicon E1.10 — “In Whom We Trust”

September 29th, 2010 Comments off

Spangler, Roy and Bloom met on their surveillance of Will and Katherine, and attempted to discern if there paranoia had merit.

Although I’m apprehensive about its somewhat slow pace, I still think Rubicon has what it takes to grow into a real winner and a hit. As such, I’m putting some faith in it and am anointing it with instant recap status.  To read prior Quick Hits for the show, click here on my posts tagged #Rubicon.  Here are my Quick Hits for Episode 1.10, “In Whom We Trust.”

I stated in my review of episode 9 that the addition of Annie Parisse was a genius stroke and really worked.  I hadn’t really wondered as to the probability of Andy being a spy or anything other than what she says she is/was. A friend expressed that he thought she was suspect and a little too perfect / trusting. I think that there are certain characteristics which don’t really add up about her reaction to Will’s activities – in fact, it wasn’t really until this episode’s sister call fallout that you had her acting in any way normal – e.g., her expression that she was happy he had a gun, instead of being weirded out by the paranoid guy she assumes is lying about being a spy and even his name… and who shows up with a concealed firearm.

In this episode, we see a more honest character in Andy. She chats with her sister about Will and playfully owns up to that. She also gets peeved when he withdraws and then tries to steal her phone to see who she’s been calling. The only unnatural thing about it was the fact that she didn’t throw him out. And the only real bullshit comment she made was the suggestion that she had three-way calling in high school.

Anyways, I’ve been swamped at work, so I’m going to jump right into the quick hits, after the check. Read more…

Quick Hits: Rubicon E1.09 — “No Honesty in Men”

September 22nd, 2010 1 comment

Although I’m apprehensive about its somewhat slow pace, I still think Rubicon has what it takes to grow into a real winner and a hit. As such, I’m putting some faith in it and am anointing it with instant recap status.  To read prior Quick Hits for the show, click here on my posts tagged #Rubicon.  Here are my Quick Hits for Episode 1.09, “No Honesty in Men.”

The AMC website was light on still images from this episode, so I lead with the credits screenshot, again.

It’s been nine episodes now and for the first time since the pilot, we’ve seen a flicker of a personal life for Will Travers.  That glimpse coincides with what was by far the best episode of the show to date.  In the pilot, we had David imploring Will to escape his job and the life of an analyst.  Yet it had been revealed that he had become an introvert after losing his wife and daughter in the September 11th attacks. Since that time, there’s been zero implication of a social life or really any life outside of work for him.

This lack of a life was despite the fact that Travers struggled most with being unable to “take his job home with him”. He couldn’t talk about what he does with anyone. The reality is that he didn’t have anyone to tell about it, even if he wanted to. While Truxton Spangler spoke of the separation of church and state, analogizing that separation to the need to keep professional and personal lives separate, for Will such a wall was entirely aspirational. Or perhaps he needed the wall in order to allow a personal life to regrow. He had retreated from life into his job, and it had taken and possessed him.

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Quick Hits: Rubicon E1.08 — “Caught in the Suck”

September 20th, 2010 8 comments

Although I’m apprehensive about its somewhat slow pace, I still think Rubicon has what it takes to grow into a real winner and a hit. As such, I’m putting some faith in it and am anointing it with instant recap status.  To read prior Quick Hits for the show, click here on my posts tagged #Rubicon.  Here are my Quick Hits for Episode 1.08, “Caught in the Suck.”

The return of Ed Bancroft was a welcome one in Rubicon's eighth episode.

Another week without time to really spend on TV.  Caught up a bit this weekend and took a brief break from trying to figure out the baseball season.  Not going to spend too much time on this past week’s episode, “Caught in the Suck.”

What I will give Rubicon credit for is that it most certainly has discipline.  You can somewhat tell that the producers had a clearly defined skeleton for the conspiracy and how they wanted to lay it out.  It was largely piecemeal at first and, in that structure, it risked having trouble catching on and holding onto audience.  My brother, for example, abandoned the show quite quickly with the lack of any visible path or hint of action.  Taking to the show really was a leap of faith on the part of anyone who chose to become dedicated to it.  Of course, AMC has earned some goodwill with their successes on Mad Men and Breaking Bad.  Add in a solid cast and the promise of a grand plan, and there was some reason to look forward to it developing.

But therein lies the rub; the producers discipline has been strict.  Although they almost certainly went with a few tweaks after the pilot aired and feedback was received (e.g., ditching the idea of Katherine having kids), there’s been a near remarkable steadfastness and lack of panic on the part of producers.  Yes, the marketing side has been atwitter with trying to thieve Mad Men viewers.  And they’ve really been pushing their somewhat frail website.  But the storyline’s stress free canter continues unabated.  And even after we’ve received some of the most significant revelations to date in episode seven, it’s still hard to grasp what we’re actually looking at.  We’ve gotten a few of the sections of the jigsaw puzzle connected, but the portrait being painted remains far from focus.

Some quick hits, after the jump. Read more…

Quick Hits: Rubicon E1.07 — “The Truth Will Out”

September 7th, 2010 Comments off

Although I’m apprehensive about its somewhat slow pace, I still think Rubicon has what it takes to grow into a real winner and a hit. As such, I’m putting some faith in it and am anointing it with instant recap status.  To read prior Quick Hits for the show, click here on my posts tagged #Rubicon.  Here are my Quick Hits for Episode 1.07, “The Truth Will Out.”

There weren't a lot of good production stills for this episode, so I've gone back to the elegant image from the amazing opening credits.

I think I’ve figured out Rubicon’s problem. It’s not that it doesn’t work as a show… it does. It is just that it actually is cursed by leading into Mad Men. Although Mad Men has allowed Rubicon to hold onto viewership and actually increased its numbers in the last couple of weeks – the 1.31 million live viewers for Episode 6 reversing some of the bleed from the highly hyped second episode (the premiere event several months after the pilot first aired) – it also strikingly displays how far Rubicon has to go to reach that peak.

AMC is advertising it now as the show for your head, as Mad Men is for your heart. That may be true and I do believe that this has the potential to weave complex and entertaining storylines over 13 episodes, season arcs, much as Damages does. But as Damages is sloppy in describing the legal profession, Rubicon similarly struggles at times with maintaining the intelligence it should follow through on. This means getting literary, getting anal about detail and skirting some of the unnecessary character development that you must undertake in the first few episodes of a show’s run.

I’m hopefuly that that hump has been passed (or that Rubicon crossed, if you will) with this past episode. Not only was it the most action packed in the series run, but it also reflected the first time a character was integrated organically into the cast.

Read more, after the jump. Read more…

Quick Hits: Rubicon E1.06 — “Look to the Ant”

September 7th, 2010 Comments off

Although I’m apprehensive about its somewhat slow pace, I still think Rubicon has what it takes to grow into a real winner and a hit. As such, I’m putting some faith in it and am anointing it with instant recap status.  To read prior Quick Hits for the show, click here on my posts tagged #Rubicon.  Here are my Quick Hits for Episode 1.06, “Look to the Ant.”

Travers escaped to a gaming cafe to execute some searches.

I had quite the busy week last week and insufficient time to do a full Quick Hits for Rubicon’s sixth episode. As a result, I’m typing this up both late and in an abbreviated manner. The episode was, on the whole, quite good. There’s been a marked, yet subtle speeding up of the plot. We also saw in this episode one of the glaring weaknesses and one of the potential turning points for the show as it possibly moves toward greatness.

I’ll open by hitting the weakness first. I really do think that they are a bit quick to fall into stereotypes. While Travers, Kale, Spangler, Katherine Rhumor and Miles have all shown potential to be very deep, complex and connective characters, there remains a tendency to go stereotypical with Maggie, some tangential characters and even Miles. In particular, the rendezvous Maggie had in this episode was just manufactured snooze fest.

Maggie herself is a character who seems fundamentally flawed. We’ve been introduced to her only in snippets, some of which worked (like her spying for Kale) and most of which didn’t (her far too forced pining for Travers and her bizarre unexplained relationship with her ex-husband, not to mention her somewhat worthless blog).  She disappears for extended periods in the show’s brief run and all of the screen time she does get is just a bit too forced, particularly in scenes she shares with Travers.  The show seems to want to push her character, but I think they’d do well to just let it go and let her drift into the background.

Click on through for more thoughts. Read more…

Trailer: The Walking Dead (2010)

August 24th, 2010 Comments off

In the world of “I Cannot Fracking Wait” debuts, AMC’s The Walking Dead, based on the graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman is pretty much atop my TV list… at least since the premiere of ABC’s V.  Well AMC just debuted a four and a half minute trailer for the series and announced it’s start date: 10 PM on Halloween night, this October.  Can… not… wait….

Quick Hits: Rubicon E1.05 — “Connect The Dots”

August 22nd, 2010 Comments off

I think Rubicon might have what it takes to be a real winner and a hit. As such, I’m putting some faith in it and am anointing it with instant recap status.  To read prior Quick Hits for the show, click here on my posts tagged #Rubicon.  Here are my Quick Hits for Episode 1.05, “Connect The Dots.”

At Spangler's wife's charity event, Katherin and Travers finally cross paths.

So in “Connect The Dots” the viewers start to get the first signs of some real payoff for the patience.  Yes, it may not pack the action punch that you’d get in Alias or 24, but we did get some forward momentum and the opening to the path toward some answers.  As I mentioned in my first Quick Hits for Rubicon‘s pilot episode, a show like this can, hopefully, operate like a crossword.  Shooting off clues to be woven into the patchwork thread.

Much as the opening credits paint an image of connecting loosely sprayed dots, the show (I hope) will be something to be collected as a patchwork and layered together in order to simplify the analysis. For the first time, we saw some actual movement to integrate some of the information we’ve learned.  Not the least of which was colliding the worlds of Travers and Katherine Rhumor.

Yes, their first interaction was a bit awkward, complete with a simple flirtation toward each other (even if the widow and widower did so almost reluctantly).  They met at Spangler’s wife’s charitable event (the introduction of which was a bit too compressed in the storyline… in that Travers and the other team leaders were only invited last second), at the bar while ordering vodka tonics.  With it, you had each admitting to somewhat addicted and depressive behavior, with Travers lamenting the moments drinking alone and Katherine referring to her vodka tonics as oxygen.

But it was the second connection that held more weight.  You had Spangler telling Mr. Roy (The Wire‘s Clay Davis) to push off attention from Travers (who was recorded telling Bancroft to stand down) and focusing it on Rhumor (who had rebuffed suggestions from all parties to get rid of MRQ Alternatives, the company her husband had left to her at the last second).  Looking on in the background was Bloom, who apparently was brought into the surveillance by Kale.

This followed Katherine’s continued efforts to look into her husband’s activities.  Although we’re only privy to the conspirators being aware of Katherine refusing to sell off MRQ, she had been slowly digging and learning.  In this episode, she paid a visit to MRQ’s headquarters.  MRQ Alternatives ended up being a clothing company.  But I’m not sure we should have expected much beyond that, as Katherine suspected, it was a drop of sorts.  In her quick examination, she was drawn to and examined a news clipping stating that “CCNY Professor Bradley Ruled Suicide.”  Perhaps the most revealing thing to us was that Katherine continued to be affirmed of her husband’s love for her, using their anniversary as the combination lock entry (despite the fact that Master Lock does not, to my knowledge, allow customization of locks of the variety that Katherine cracked).

In any respect, click on through for my quick hit thoughts on the episode. Read more…